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Cooking With Your Cardiologist?


I think it would be great fun to chop onions with my cardiologist, or sauté vegetables next to my gastroenterologist!

This is now possible with new “Physician in the Kitchen” classes that are featured among a variety of classes at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital’s Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen. Through NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital’s Harvest for Health initiative, the hospital works with patients and the general community to teach them to better manage their health through diet and lifestyle changes. The initiative includes an organic garden on the hospital campus, monthly farmers’ markets, a locally sourced food service for patients and employees, and cooking classes at the Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen, named for the famed Hudson Valley chef and restaurateur.

The Teaching Kitchen offers cooking classes to patients, school children and the general community in an effort to promote healthy eating. Each month the cooking classes range from general cooking instruction to very specific curriculum for diabetes, cancer, and heart patients, as well as breastfeeding moms. The hospital has a responsibility to incorporate nutrition into every medical care plan of every diagnosis treated, and to hopefully discharge patients with an understanding of why their diet is so very important to their health. The programs offered through the Teaching Kitchen subscribe to the mantra, “Health thru Food.”

In June of 2016, the Hospital hired Emilie Berner M.A., pictured here, as Chef and Coordinator for the Harvest for Health program. A graduate of both NYU Food Studies Master Program and the Natural Gourmet Institute, Chef Berner has worked with clinicians, dietitians and hospital staff to expand the Hospital’s monthly offering of targeted cooking classes, such as “Low Fat & Low Salt Cooking with Flavor” and “Diabetes-Friendly Cooking.”

NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital recently launched the Healthy Heart Program, which is led by the Chef, and nursing and staff from the hospital’s Wellness Center, the hospital’s on-site exercise facility. Each session includes about a dozen people whose history of cardiac disease qualifies them to receive free instruction over a five-month period that includes diet, lifestyle changes, membership to the Wellness Center and training with a fitness expert. “The healthy recipes we cook together are cost-effective, easy to make, and very delicious,” noted Chef Berner. A hospital nurse charts each patient’s weight, blood pressure and BMI.

Making health-supportive recipes accessible and easy to prepare is a goal of all instruction. Of the ‘Physician in the Kitchen’ classes, Chef Berner said, “We believe that a patient and doctor should have a medical, nutritional, and relationship-based experience together. A doctor becomes more approachable if you see him or her chopping an onion!” All “Physician in the Kitchen” cooking classes are free and limited to 20 participants. One upcoming class will feature Craig Hametz, MD, FACC Cardiologist, who will discuss why cholesterol levels matter, and what lifestyle changes patients can implement to improve them. A light lunch, prepared together, will be served.

(Friday, July 7, Noon-1:30 PM. Location: Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen, 1992 Crompond Road, Cortlandt Manor, NY. Reservations: 914-734-3780).

When I asked Chef Berner which initiatives were among her favorites, she spoke about “Soups & Sides.” Every Thursday, an abundance of fresh produce is picked from the hospital’s organic garden and a soup or cooked side dish is prepared and delivered to patients undergoing chemotherapy, as well as their caregivers, at the hospital’s Cancer Center. Recipes are also distributed, and the patients have the opportunity to discuss the nutritional value of food and how it can support their healing.

Another exciting and free program that is available to patients who are undergoing treatment in NYP Hudson Valley Hospital’s Cheryl R. Lindenbaum Comprehensive Cancer Center is the vision of Dr. J. Gregory Mears, Hematologist, with ColumbiaDoctors, the faculty practice of Columbia University Medical Center, and NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley. The hospital’s Integrative Therapies Program is designed for cancer patients and their caregivers. The four sessions include lectures on the latest in medical care and education on lifestyle programs and relaxation strategies, including yoga, meditation, and acupressure. The last hour of each session is a cooking class with recipes that can help patients with nausea and weight loss.

The children of the Hudson Valley have not been forgotten in this initiative. “The Young Chefs of Hudson Valley” program partnered with Peekskill Middle School and was launched as an after-school enrichment activity with the goal of teaching nutrition and healthy cooking while reducing the risk of childhood obesity. “Children, ages 11-13, meet at the kitchen for 10 sessions to debunk the myth that green or healthy food tastes gross,” said Chef Berner. Recently, students from Peekskill Middle School visited the Hilltop Hanover Farm with Chef Berner. The children are given copies of the recipes that they cook together in the Teaching Kitchen to share at home with their families.

While researching this article, I had the joy of attending the “Gluten-Free Cooking Class” taught by Chef Berner and Jodie Ferrari, Registered Dietician, at the Chef Peter X. Kelly Kitchen. Our small group learned about celiac disease and gluten intolerance and then reviewed a list of foods to avoid and healthy substitutions. Working together, we prepared a scrumptious, gluten-free lunch including Red Lentil Burgers, Cilantro Chutney, Spiced Cabbage Slaw, and Chocolate Chip & Oatmeal Cookies.

All the people in attendance either had a gluten intolerance or knew someone who did. We all wanted to learn how to cook quick, delicious, gluten-free meals for our family and friends. There was lots of sharing and a real community spirit in our group.

The class ended with Chef Berner sharing her thoughts about the Teaching Kitchen program. “The hospital’s mission is to weave cooking, wellness and education together, in a way that is accessible, easy and fun. Our goal is to offer a supportive and educational environment that will empower people to make small—or hopefully big—changes in their lives.”

FARMERS MARKET: June 16, 20. July 18. August 1, 15. 11 AM-4 PM. Hudson Valley Hospital Main Lobby.

COOKING CLASSES: See for a calendar of events.

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